Heidi's (Minneapolis, MN)
By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
One of the problems with restaurant reviews is context. You can't judge fine French restaurants by the same criteria as Mom-and-Pop restaurants. Of course the former is better, but it's also 30 times the price. But when our imaginations overtake us, we consider the possibility of a neighborhood restaurant with a chef trained in the finest kitchens. We imagine the good food, the unpretentious and congenial dining room, the reasonable price. We'd travel for such a meal, oh yes we would.
Heidi's, however, is walking distance from our home. Run by Stuart and Heidi Woodman, Heidi's occupies a narrow South Minneapolis store-front. Stuart Woodman, of course, is one of Minneapolis' star chefs, and a former sous-chef at New York's Ducasse. Heidi's dining room is pretty and unassuming.
Woodman isn't setting out to re-create the lavishness of a top table, but he's putting dinner on the table with fine flair. It's sometimes known as "New American" or "Contemporary French," we call it "Modern Celebrity Chef." Woodman's version has a propensity for Asian accents, and most of it is delicious.
For appetizers, we liked the rabbit ravioli served with crispy shallots and the curried squash soup served with coconut milk and scallions. The grilled shrimp rolled in panko crumbs with carrot foam was less interesting.
Best of all was the beet salad, served with endive, cucumber, yuzu and an exceptional soy-caramel dressing.
Entrees were generally good, with a few exceptions. We loved the anise-scented braised lamb shank but didn't care for the tasteless rice puffs it was served on. The salmon was perfectly steamed, not overcooked as it so often is, and served with a delicious blue crab stuffing and passion fruit and sage sauce.
The braised oxtail, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts over pasta, a special the night we were there, was a rich, perfect combo. So, too, was the mushroom stew, also served with Swiss chard over pasta.
The menu offers four side dishes, suitable for sharing. We found both the garlic creamed spinach and the white truffle diced potatoes surprisingly bland, but the pappardelle pasta in cream sauce with black truffles was delicious. The mixed green salad was another winner and we loved the dressing, but it doesn't make sense to us as a side. Consider it as an appetizer instead.
We also liked Heidi's wine list. It's not large, but it's full of food-friendly wines at reasonable prices. There's also a nice by-the-glass list. The waitstaff is glad to help with your choice and even let you taste anything that's already open.
Desserts are mostly simple -- ice cream and sorbets -- but try the wine-poached pear with pistachio, or the sweet potato beignet seasoned with sage. For chocolate lovers, there's a sinful plate of dark chocolate cake, chocolate sorbet and chocolate sauce.
Held against the standard of the best Twin Cities restaurants, Heidi's falls a bit short. But that's not what Woodman is trying to do here. Heidi's offers a fantastic meal for about $50, including a glass of wine, dessert, and tax and tip. And that's definitely worth walking, or driving, to South Minneapolis for.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc.